|HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ENDORSES RECOMMENDATIONS IN REPORT OF FACT-FINDING MISSION LED BY JUSTICE GOLDSTONE AND CALLS FOR THEIR IMPLEMENTATION|
Demands that Israel Immediately Cease All Excavation Work Around Al Aqsa Mosque and that it Allow Palestinian Citizens Access to Their Properties and Religious Sites
16 October 2009
The twelfth Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem concluded this morning after adopting a resolution in which it endorsed the recommendations contained in the report of the independent international Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Goldstone and called on all concerned parties to ensure their implementation.
In the resolution, which was adopted by a vote of 25 in favour, six against, and 11 abstentions, the Council strongly condemned all policies and measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, including those limiting access of Palestinians to their properties and holy sites particularly in Occupied East Jerusalem, on the basis of national origin, religion, sex, age or any other discriminatory ground. It condemned further the recent Israeli violations of human rights in Occupied East Jerusalem, particularly the confiscation of lands and properties, the demolishing of houses and private properties, the construction and expansion of settlements, the continuous construction of the separation Wall, changing the demographic and geographic character of East Jerusalem, the restrictions on the freedom of movement of the Palestinian citizens of East Jerusalem, as well as the continuous digging and excavation works in and around Al-Aqsa mosque and its vicinity. The Council demanded that Israel respect the religious and cultural rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and allow Palestinian citizens and worshippers unhindered access to their properties and religious sites therein. It also demanded that Israel immediately cease all digging and excavation works and activities beneath and around Al Aqsa Mosque and its vicinity, and refrain from any acts or operations that may endanger the structure or foundations or change the nature of holy sites both Christian and Islamic in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council heard speakers in the general debate who noted that the Council was holding a Special Session while the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was worsening. The excavations carried out in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque were aimed at changing the geography of the site and Israel had to be stopped. Other speakers were concerned at what they saw as a continued and unbalanced attention given by the Council to Middle East issues. The earlier decision of the Council in March (to postpone consideration of the Goldstone report till March 2010) reflected the complexity and seriousness of the question. It was therefore felt that a Special Session had not been warranted at this time.
Speaking in the general debate were Turkey, the League of Arab States, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Costa Rica, the African Union, Maldives, Panama, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Iceland, Morocco, Canada, Australia, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Switzerland.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les peoples; International Federation of Human Rights Leagues; Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man; Human Rights Watch; Action Canada for Population and Development; Badil Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; International Commission of Jurists; UN Watch; ADALAH – Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; B’nai B’rith International; Union of Arab Jurists; North South XXI; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; World Union for Progressive Judaism; international Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; and the International Committee For The Respect and Application Of The African Charter On Human Rights And People’s Rights. The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights also took the floor.
Israel and Palestine spoke on the resolution in their capacity as concerned countries. Speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote were the delegations of the United States, Chile, Slovenia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Norway and Mexico. Speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote were the delegations of India, Slovakia, Belgium, the Russian Federation, China, the Netherlands and Italy. Algeria spoke in a general comment after the vote
The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, led by Justice Richard Goldstone, was tasked by the Council “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after”. The report of the Mission, presented to the Council’s twelfth session, concluded that, while the Israeli Government sought to portray its operations as a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self defence, the Israeli plan had been directed, at least in part, at the people of Gaza as a whole. The report also found that Palestinian armed groups had succeeded in causing terror within Israel’s civilian population through the launch of thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel since April 2001. It recommended that the Security Council require the Government of Israel to take all appropriate steps, within a period of three months, to launch appropriate investigations that were independent and in conformity with international standards; and with regard to the relevant Palestinian authorities, that it require the independent committee of experts to monitor and report on any domestic legal or other proceedings undertaken by the relevant authorities in the Gaza Strip.
The Human Rights Council will hold its thirteenth regular session from 1 to 29 March 2010.
ASLIGUL UGDUL (Turkey) noted that the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been thoroughly discussed two weeks ago during the September session of the Council. The decision taken then by Palestine to defer the resolution on the Goldstone report, in order to give more time for its consideration and to facilitate global efforts for the Middle East peace process, had been welcomed by the Council. Nevertheless, no positive steps had been taken by other parties following that decision and recent developments had even further deteriorated the human rights situation of Palestinians. Turkey therefore totally understood the need for holding this Special Session. It was particularly concerned with the recent incidents in and around Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and attached utmost priority and special importance to the protection of the sacred nature of Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the cultural and religious fabric of Jerusalem. The Goldstone Fact-Finding Mission addressed all alleged violations and should be seriously considered by the Council, which should combat impunity and uphold accountability. It was Turkey's sincere hope that the conclusions of the report could create an opportunity to put an end to the dire conditions in Gaza.
SAAD ALFARARGI (League of Arab States) said that the Council was holding a Special Session while the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was worsening. The Al Aqsa Mosque’s esplanade had been invaded by settlers, while Israel, the occupying power continued to carry out excavations, thereby violating instruments of international human rights. The excavations carried out in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque were aimed at changing the geography of the site. Israel had to be stopped. The Council should adopt the Fact-Finding Mission’s report and refer it to the Security Council. Israeli war criminals should be put to trial.
HAMID BAEIDI NEJAD (Iran) welcomed and fully supported the convening of this Special Session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Iran strongly believed that the relevant recommendations in the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza should be taken seriously and resolutely followed up by the international community through all relevant mechanisms with a view to holding accountable the perpetrators of such heinous crimes and to put an end to the persistent situation of absolute impunity and defiance of the law. Iran attached high importance to the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which covered some of the realities on the ground in occupied Palestine, particularly during the brutal aggression against the Gaza Strip. In that context, the international community should exert all pressure on the occupiers to lift the inhumane and severe siege imposed on 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Iran strongly condemned recently intensified illegal policies and measures taken by the Israeli regime in occupied Palestine, including ongoing settlement activities, continued racist construction of the apartheid wall in occupied Palestine and in particular in and around the holy city, as well as continued digging and excavation work in and around Al Aqsa Mosque.
KHALIL BITAR (Syria) said that only a few days had gone by since the discussions in the Council on the atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza. The occupying power had provoked the Palestinians further by attacking the Al Aqsa Mosque. Syria demanded a stop of the excavations in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque. Syria condemned all the measures taken by Israel in Jerusalem to change the demographics and the geography of the city. These were flagrant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, reflecting the continuation of the policy of occupation since 1967. The conscience of the international community was being tested. The Council had to put an end to the culture of impunity of Israeli leaders. These violations undermined the foundations on which international law had been built upon. The international community was called upon to move seriously to put an end to the Israeli practices and to put an end to occupation.
NAJLA RIACHI ASSAKER (Lebanon) said the international community had to try and put an end to violations taking place in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including fresh violations. The inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territory were suffering from the loss of their lands and the desecration of their holy sites. They could see the vice squeezing around them to cut them off from their holy lands. All of that was an effort to drive them out of the holy city and to deprive them of their land. How could there be peace when Israel continued its expansion of settlements? The Goldstone report contained clear proof that Israel's activities during its aggression constituted a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, international humanitarian law and human rights law. The bombing of civilian facilities, including factories and schools, and the excessive illegal destruction without any military necessity – all of that had to be sanctioned. Peace could not be based on the guarantees of security for one country to the detriment of others. It could only be established by securing justice, and the rights of all.
IBRAHIM A.E. ALDREDI (Libya) said that this Special Session was being held in light of worsening conditions for the Palestinian people in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the other Arab Occupied Territories. Judge Goldstone’s mission had shown the violations that had been committed by Israel. After the deferral of action on the report during the Council’s last session, Israel had launched an aggression against the Al Aqsa Mosque. Libya had called for a Security Council emergency meeting to discuss the Goldstone Report. Libya had not wanted to wait another six months before taking action on the report, at the risk of it being forgotten. This constituted a first historic opportunity to bring Israel before justice. Israel believed that it was above the law and was not accountable. The Council, the General Assembly and the International Criminal Court should shoulder their responsibility and address these violations. If the International Criminal Court did not issue arrest warrants against Israeli leaders, it would lose its credibility. The State Members of the Council stood before a crossroad today.
ALEXANDRA SEGURA HERNANDEZ (Costa Rica) said that as a country that promoted a policy of respect for human rights, Costa Rica advocated for the good and effective functioning of the Human Rights Council, and had for that reason supported that the taking of action on the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the military operations in Gaza had to take place within this body, while the recommendations could be analysed and accepted by other United Nations bodies, including the Security Council. Costa Rica reiterated its concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and appealed to all parties to respect international human rights and international humanitarian law. A central aspect was the need to establish responsibilities through justice mechanisms, and in particular that Israel continue its investigation and make the findings of that investigation public. The Goldstone report was a serious document and was worthy of their consideration. It was hoped that the consideration of the report would contribute to establishing corresponding responsibilities.
KHADIJA RACHIDA MASRI (African Union) said that the African Union Commission was keeping a disturbed eye on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where even places of worship had not been spared by the occupier. The Goldstone report left no doubt about the international human rights and international humanitarian law violations committed by Israel. The prevalence of an atmosphere of impunity added to these violations. No one should enjoy a de facto impunity for crimes committed. Rapid action should be taken to restore dignity to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Both parties should recommit to the negation process. The Executive Council of the African Union had recently reiterated its full support to the combat of the Palestinian people to regain their right to self-determination. Israel should stop the excavations in and around Al Aqsa.
SHAZRA ABDUL SATTAR (Maldives) strongly supported the right of the people of Palestine to freely determine their own political and economic system, including the right to resist forcible deprivation of their right to self-determination and the right to live, in peace and freedom, in their own State. It also supported the inalienable right of the people of Israel to live in peace and security. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the Gaza conflict was that, although fought to assert these rights, the fighting had in fact pushed them farther away. The Maldives believed that the report of the Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Goldstone was detailed and thorough, though it did regret Israel's decision not to cooperate with the Mission. In particular, the Maldives endorsed the conclusions that the blockade amounted to collective punishment intentionally inflicted by Israel on the people of the Gaza Strip; that the launching of rockets by Palestinian armed groups into Israeli civilian areas constituted a grave violation of humanitarian and human rights law; and that the Israeli military incursion into Gaza in response to those attacks was massively disproportionate, while the destruction of houses, factories, schools and hospitals and the large number of civilian dead demonstrated, at best, a blatant disregard for the fundamental principle of distinction. Among others, the Maldives supported the recommendation in the report that alleged violations by all sides be independently investigated and that those investigations, together with any subsequent prosecutions, be monitored by the Security Council.
JORGE FELIX CORRALES (Panama) said that Panama believed that the form of procedure chosen for this Session was not appropriate and dissociated itself from the process. Panama wanted to see States respect themselves and believed in international human rights law and international law. Panama also believed in democracy and respect and was concerned by the current climate of violence. In such a context, investigations had to be carried out. Panama encouraged the parties concerned to conduct credible investigations. The voices of all parties had to be heard in an independent investigation. A true dialogue had to begin, leading to a peaceful end to the conflict situation in the Middle East.
MOJTABA AMIRI VAHID (Organization of the Islamic Conference) said the Organization of the Islamic Conference fully supported the Palestinian call for this Special Session to consider the Goldstone report and its effective implementation of recommendations contained in it, which were supported by the international community. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, along with a score of others speaking during this Special Session, called on all concerned parties, including the Council, to take up the recommendations contained in the Goldstone report so that those expectations would not have been raised in vain. The Council had to make concerted efforts to awaken the occupying power to the undeniable fact that peace could only come to the region when there was a sense of accountability, a sense of responsibility and the realization of application of international laws and related United Nations resolutions, including the periodic report of the High Commissioner and that of the independent Fact-Finding Mission.
KRISTINN F. ARNASON (Iceland) reiterated Iceland’s statement made last Wednesday during the Security Council open debate on the situation in the Middle East. Iceland was deeply concerned over the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and regarded it as imperative that every effort was made to bring the human tragedy to an end. Iceland also underlined the importance it attached to ensure accountability and eradicate impunity. There could be no lasting peace without respect for human rights and without accountability for human rights violations. All allegations of violations must be investigated. They welcomed the Goldstone report; it merited serious consideration and follow-up.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said that once again the Human Rights Council was holding a Special Session to study the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the holy city of Al Quds Al Sharif, thus expressing the serious concern of the international community in that regard. The serious incidents recorded recently on the esplanade of the Al Aqsa Mosque were a source of real concern for the Arab-Muslim countries. They gravely impacted on the rights of freedom of movement and freedom of worship. In addition, the demolition of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem represented a collective punishment of Palestinians and disdain for international human rights and international humanitarian law. At the same time, the continuing excavation and construction of tunnels under the Al Aqsa Mosque seriously endangered that holy site of Islam. Finally, Morocco believed that the Arab Peace Initiative remained a strategic option. It reflected the sincere will of Arab countries to come to a comprehensive settlement of the problem in the Middle East.
ALISON LECLAIRE CHRISTIE (Canada) said that her delegation had taken note of the request made by the Palestinian delegation, during the last session, to defer consideration of a resolution on the Goldstone Report until the next regular session in March 2010. The lead co-sponsors had believed that this would allow for more time for broad-based and comprehensive consideration of the report. Canada was very concerned that this Special Session had been called so soon after this assessment had been made. The Council’s credibility depended on its preparedness to confront violations of human rights and Canada strongly supported the use of a Special Session to address grave violations of human rights wherever and whenever they occurred but was concerned at the continued and unbalanced attention given by the Council to Middle East issues. This Special Session was considered by Canada as a very poor precedent for the Council which undermined its integrity.
MIRANDA BROWN (Australia) took note of the request made by the Palestinian delegation at the twelfth session of the Human Rights Council to defer consideration of a resolution on the Goldstone report until the thirteenth regular session of the Council in March 2010. Only two weeks ago, the lead co-sponsors of the resolution considered that that would allow “more time for broad-based and comprehensive consideration" of the report. Australia agreed. The earlier decision of the Council in March reflected the complexity and seriousness of the question. Australia did not consider this Special Session was warranted at this time.
NANGUYALAI TARZI (Afghanistan) said that for decades, the right to self-determination of the people of Palestine had been denied. Violations of human rights were occurring and increasing every day, such as the continued construction of the separation wall and the changing of the geographic and demographic character of the occupied territory. They were gathered here again as the people in Palestine were witnessing continuous violations. Afghanistan welcomed the report of the International Fact-Finding Mission and was of the view that a serious consideration of its recommendations and follow-up were most important for the credibility of the Council.
DHARAR ABDUL-RAZZAK RAZZOOQI (Kuwait) said that Kuwait had searched for the word "intentional" in the Goldstone report. Why? Because there had been "intentional" killings. "Intentional" targeting of civilian property. An "intentional" scorched earth policy. An individual would be judged in a court for such crimes. But when a Member State did so, they were not judged. Why? Because Israel was untouchable. There was no accountability. Because Israel had done what was found in an Agatha Christie novel – tried to get away with murder. Israel was responsible for the dehumanization of the Palestinian people. Justice Goldstone had witnessed that before under the apartheid regime. He had documented that again in their region in his report.
JURG LAUBER (Switzerland) said that Switzerland expressed serious concern over the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In Gaza, no noteworthy progress had been made to meet the needs of the population. The dependence of the population on external help was increasing. The building of settlements was continuing, in violation of international law. Restrictions of access to places of worship were making the situation explosive. In the absence of any settlement to the conflict, Switzerland reminded the parties that they had to live up to their obligations under international law. The report of the international fact-finding mission gave an objective and global reading of the situation. Switzerland was pleased to see that the Mission had investigated violations by all parties. Very serious crimes had been committed by both parties. Switzerland could only underscore the importance of the report. Any follow-up needed a broad support. The resolution should be well-balanced. If the parties were unwilling to bring to justice the perpetrators of international law, it would be up to the international community to bring these perpetrators to justice.
RANDA SINIORA, of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, welcomed and affirmed the importance of today's meeting. This Special Session gave the international community a crucial opportunity to endorse the recommendations of the Goldstone report in full, to hold Israel accountable for actions, and to break the culture of impunity which had long denied justice to the victims of its war crimes and grave breaches of international law. Justice delayed was justice denied.
GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, observed that, despite dozens of resolutions adopted by various United Nations bodies condemning the actions of the State of Israel, colonial occupation followed destruction and massacres and followed abuses and international law was constantly trampled. The report submitted by the Fact-Finding Mission offered all the necessary elements for a sound legal approach. Without respect for one's counterpart, without respect for the law, there would never be peace.
RAJI SOURANI, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues - FIDH, in a joint statement with Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said that for those who had been killed, nothing would be able to reconstruct their lives and bring them back to life again. Would the Council be able to hold criminals accountable and bring a sort of justice to the victims? What was unique with the Goldstone report was that the facts were very clear. There were also very clear-cut procedures proposed. The rule of law had to prevail and not the rule of the jungle. Those who would abstain on the vote on the resolution would be for the rule of the jungle.
MAYSA ZOROB, of Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, in a joint statement with Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; and Defence for Children International, said that they had deeply regretted the decision to delay the consideration on the Goldstone Report, two weeks ago. This Special Session represented an important opportunity. There could be no justice, peace or security without accountability. Impunity had prevailed and would continue if the Council did not take concrete action. Occupation, which was the root cause of the conflict, had persisted for over 42 years. Impunity effectively encouraged the continuation of unlawful activities by Israel.
JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, said that Human Rights Watch had regretted the decision taken at the twelfth session of the Human Rights Council to postpone consideration of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. Actors on all sides had played political games to the detriment of the civilian victims of the conflict. The main focus of this Special Session should be to redress that failure. Those responsible for the deferral needed to assess the consequences of the decision to dedicate their efforts to passing a resolution that endorsed the Mission's report in its entirety and referred it to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should follow up on the implementation of recommendations contained in the report, not the resolution adopted during the ninth session of the Council, which focused solely on the responsibility of Israel. Those who argued that the report would derail peace efforts should acknowledge that persistent impunity, not the prospect of justice, was the greater threat to peace.
HOSSAM BAHGAT, of Action Canada for Population and Development, said he had spent the last two weeks following public reactions and coverage by Egyptian and Arab media of the decision to postpone consideration of the Goldstone report. The overwhelming sentiment had been one of anger and shock, both at the postponement decision and the manner in which it had been reached. And when it came to undermining the rule of law, people in the region were not easily shocked. Perhaps it was because the report addressed violations committed by Palestinian groups as well as by Israeli forces, ridding many States of their convenient arguments of one-sidedness and lack of a balanced approach. Those who had succumbed to the decision to postpone consideration of the Goldstone report had now come to realize the magnitude of the mistake they had committed. Failure to endorse the Goldstone report would make States the moral equivalent of those who strived to ensure impunity for crimes committed in Darfur and elsewhere.
PATRIZIA SCANELLA, of Amnesty International, said that the Goldstone Report had addressed comprehensively and authoritatively alleged Israeli and Palestinian violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Without effective action to address accountability and end impunity, there would be no long-term peace in the Middle East. A central recommendation of the report called on the Government of Israel and the relevant authorities in Gaza to launch appropriate investigations. To date, no such credible investigation had been conducted by either Israel or the Palestinian side.
RANIA MADI, of Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, said that justice delayed was indeed justice denied. Approximately 500,000 Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories were currently facing the risk of forced displacement. Unlawful destruction of human lives, confiscation of private and public Palestinian property and forced displacement of the Palestinian people continued in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, because Israel had never been held accountable. Ensuring justice for the many victims was a moral imperative and no party might obstruct that justice. They urged the Council to fully endorse the report.
LUKAS MACHON, of the International Commission of Jurists, said that, in a deeply disappointing development, on 2 October 2009, the Council had failed to endorse and implement the findings and recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict headed by Justice Goldstone. Acting under strain, the Council had relied on the commitments by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to carry out domestic investigations. However, the Israeli investigations had been largely perceived as ineffective as they lacked safeguards of independence and impartiality. For their part, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas had never investigated the allegations of crimes. For how long would the calls for accountability of all perpetrators of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed throughout the conflicts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continue to be disregarded? The requests for national investigations did not restrict the duty of every State and of the international community to stop condoning pervasive impunity, and prepare the ground for the investigation and possible prosecution of all those suspected of serious violations of international law.
RICHARD KEMP, of United Nations Watch, said that he had been a former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. He had served with NATO and with the United Nations, had commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia, and had participated in the Gulf War. Based on his knowledge and experience, he could say this: during Operation Cast Lead the Israeli Defense Forces had done more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare. Hamas, like Hezbollah, were expert at driving the media agenda. Both would always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They were adept at staging and distorting incidents. More than anything, the civilian casualties had been a consequence of Hamas's way of fighting. Hamas had deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.
FATMEH EL AJOU, of ADALAH - Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said that since the Fact-Finding Mission’s report had been published, they had heard, by some States, arguments about the reluctance to endorse the report’s recommendations based on the argument that Israel was a democratic country where the rule of law applied. Based on their long experience before the Israeli legal and judicial system, they could state that the Israeli legal and judicial system had consistently failed. During and after Cast Lead, human rights non-governmental organizations had demanded the opening of criminal investigations into suspicions of war crimes committed by the Israeli Army. The victims of Cast Lead in Gaza and Israel had the right to justice. The Council had to act to put an end to the culture of impunity.
DAVID HACHUEL, of B’nai B’rith International, said that they were saddened to note a new low in the Human Rights Council’s short history. The Council had been mandated to ensure non-selectivity in the consideration of human rights issues and the elimination of double-standards and politicization. The Council had passed more resolutions condemning Israel than resolutions addressing all other countries combined. They also noted with particular concern that this session had been convened not in response to a sudden event requiring the Council’s urgent attention but rather to overcome an internal conflict within one of the principal parties connected with the Gaza operation.
NAJI HARAJ, of Union of Arab Jurists, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, said that this Special Session, and the others that had been held on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, had not come out of thin air. They had come out of the continued Israeli violations against the Palestinian people. It was not necessary to enumerate the crimes. They were well known, and well documented in the report of the Fact-Finding Mission. The question was, when would the international community address those crimes? There would always be those who felt it needed more time. There were terrible double standards being applied here, which undermined international standards and human rights law. The Council should address a clear message to those who continued to commit violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and other occupied territories: it was time to end impunity and to give reign to the administration of justice.
CURTIS DOEBBLER, of North South XXI, observed that, as they had seen when bodies such as the Council and its founding body, the General Assembly, did not act, people fighting for self-determination against a foreign and oppressive occupier were forced to turn to the use of force to try to end their oppression. Violence in the Middle East could only be reduced by effective diplomatic efforts and political action to implement international law. North South XXI fully supported the report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission led by Judge Goldstone. It was an excellent step towards using law to address the situation of human rights in Palestine. The Council's action on that report was crucial. The Council could and must urge as strongly as possible that the General Assembly act on the Goldstone report to end Israel's impunity for violations of international law.
ILSE WERMINK, of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, in a joint statement with International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, said that according to all the reports they received from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the human rights situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and at this time particularly in East Jerusalem was tragic and worsening daily. They were glad that this Special Session had been convened and trusted that the Council would take the necessary steps to halt the violations that were being committed against the Palestinian people. Wednesday’s Security Council discussion had focused on the road towards a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. They urged the Human Rights Council to see the Goldstone report as a peace building instrument.
DAVID LITTMAN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, in a joint statement with Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that they were grateful to the Palestinian Authority for initiating this Special Session which should send a clear message on the Council’s priorities. As they had pointed out earlier neither the Goldstone’s mission report nor that of the High Commissioner had made any mention of a root cause of the Gaza tragedy: the genocidal 1988 Hamas Charter. Widely preached in sermons by clerics, the Charter called on Muslims to fight and kill Jews. In stressing the United Nations principle that the right to life constituted the most fundamental of all human rights, they called on this Special Session to condemn the Hamas Charter.
HANAN SHARFELDDIN, of International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, said they encouraged dialogue so that people could discuss the way out of this tragedy in the holy land. The crimes committed by Israel earlier this year had to be punished, no one disputed that. For that reason, the International Organization called for the adoption of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Goldstone. Criminals were currently given free reign in their land, while the victims were at each others' throats. That was a great tragedy which required them to stand together as one to do the right thing.
MOUSTAPHA AL-BANUTI, of Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said the Goldstone report provided an historic opportunity to end the status of impunity for Israel for violations of international law. This could open the road to a just peace. Any abstention on this report would blow up any possibility for peace, because it would mean endorsing a culture of impunity. The Goldstone Mission was not against Israel; they were against oppressive Israel, and for humanity. Israel today was creating an apartheid State for the twenty-first century. The Council should not miss this opportunity to help put an end to impunity, nor should it postpone action on the report once again.
JEREMIE SMITH, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said that they regretted the decision by the Palestinian Authority, under heavy pressure from the United States, Israel and others, to delay consideration of the Goldstone report at the last regular session of the Council. They also regretted the subsequent decision to subsume approval of the report under other indirectly related matters within this Special Session. The report deserved to be and should have been considered on its own. Several Human Rights Council Member States, who had supported efforts by the Council to end impunity for war crimes in Sudan, Sri Lanka and many other situations, had demonstrated unsupportive or even rejectionist positions towards this Special Session. Such double-standards ate away at this Council’s legitimacy and effectiveness like cancer.
WASILUADIO MAVULA MALUZA, of International Committee for the Respect and the Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, in a joint statement with Action internationale pour la paix et le développement de la région des grands lacs, said that they were following very closely the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and deplored the fact that, since 1967, the relevant Security Council resolutions and General Assembly resolutions had remained a dead letter until today. One problem had also been the repeated attempts of Israel to prevent the creation of a viable independent Palestinian State. The United States Administration under Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. had determined that the situation in Iraq would open up a durable and lasting situation in the Middle East. Today, the situation had not changed. They recommended to the various stakeholders to take up the peace process again.
Action on the Resolution
In a resolution (A/HRC/S-12/L.1) on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, adopted by a vote of 25 in favour, six against, and 11 abstentions, the Council strongly condemns all policies and measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, including those limiting access of Palestinians to their properties and holy sites, particularly in Occupied East Jerusalem, on the basis of national origin, religion, sex, age or any other discriminatory ground, which are in grave violation of the Palestinian People's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights; condemns further the recent Israeli violations of human rights in Occupied East Jerusalem, particularly the confiscation of lands and properties, the demolishing of houses and private properties, the construction and expansion of settlements, the continuous construction of the separation Wall, changing the demographic and geographic character of East Jerusalem, the restrictions on the freedom of movement of the Palestinian citizens of East Jerusalem, as well as the continuous digging and excavation works in and around Al-Aqsa mosque and its vicinity; demands that Israel respect the religious and cultural rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and allow Palestinian citizens and worshippers unhindered access to their properties and religious sites therein; demands also that Israel immediately cease all digging and excavation works and activities beneath and around Al Aqsa Mosque and its vicinity, and refrain from any acts or operations that may endanger the structure or foundations or change the nature of holy sites both Christian and Islamic in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights, pursuant to resolution S-9/L.1 and in the context of her periodic reports, to monitor, document and report on the state of implementation by Israel of its human rights obligations in and around East Jerusalem; condemns the non-cooperation by Israel with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (established by resolution A/HRC/S-9/L.1); welcomes the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (A/HRC/12/48), endorses the recommendations contained therein, and calls upon all concerned parties to ensure their implementation; recommends the General Assembly to consider the report of the Fact-Finding Mission during the main part of its sixty-fourth session; requests the Secretary General to submit a report on implementation of the Fact-Finding Mission’s recommendations to the Council’s thirteenth session; also endorses the recommendations contained in the first periodic report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in this regard (A/HRC/12/37), and calls upon all concerned parties including United Nations bodies to ensure their implementation; and requests the High Commissioner to submit to the Council’s thirteenth session, a report on the status of implementation of this resolution.
The result of the vote was as follows:
In favour (25): Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, and Zambia.
Against (6): Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine, and United States of America.
Abstentions (11): Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, and Uruguay.
AFTAB AHMAD KHOKHER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, introducing draft resolution A/HRC/S-12/L.1 on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, said this draft resolution addressed the international community's concerns on the unfortunate situation of human rights violations faced by the Palestinians. Part A dealt with continuing violations by Israel, including excavations under and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque; Part B dealt with the report of the independent international Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict; and Part C dealt with the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on resolution S-9/1. Among others, it called on the High Commissioner to monitor the implementation by Israel of its human rights obligations. It also endorsed the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission and called for all United Nations bodies to ensure its implementation, as well as recommending that the General Assembly consider that report at its sixty-fourth session. The conclusions and recommendations in the periodic report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were endorsed as well.
The Goldstone report was a wake up call to the international community, and the Council had to wake up now and act. In this draft resolution, the Council was focused purely on the need to address the violations of human rights and international law. It was hoped that the members of the Council would act in a non-politicized matter and adopt the draft resolution by consensus.
AHARON LESHNO-YAAR (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said that Israel had worried from the start of the discussions months ago that the actions of the mission would be one-sided, that the resolution, mandate, make-up and actions of the mission would be imbalanced. But most of all, Israel had been concerned that the result could not but be unbalanced and misused. Justice Goldstone it seemed now understood these concerns. He had told Swiss radio yesterday that he was worried when reading the draft resolution. It had 36 paragraphs but not a word on the rockets launched on Israel by Palestinian groups. In this morning’s “Le Temps” newspaper, Justice Goldstone said that this draft resolution saddened him, because it only made allegations against Israel. There was no single sentence condemning Hamas. This time, Justice Goldstone was correct. Many of the speakers over the past two days showed no genuine interest in the Israelis or Palestinians other than ensuring that the glare of Geneva was never shined towards them. His dilemma was that, should the draft resolution pass today, he was not sure that he had advice to give his people. How could he explain that politics, domestic agendas and in some cases, sheer cynicism had won out. That this body, and the report it would endorse, offered no solution to democracies fighting against terrorists. Many understood that a real discussion of human rights, or even the nuances of Justice Goldstone’s problematic report, was not the real matter on their agenda today. If one really wanted to see Israelis and Palestinians gain confidence and see improvements on the ground for all sides, one had to reject today’s proposal.
IBRAHIM KHRAISHI (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said that they or their friends would not use this rostrum to condemn Israel or Hamas. What they wanted was for law to rule between them here in this Human Rights Council. They wanted for international law, international humanitarian law, human rights law and all international conventions and agreements and for all values to prevail. They wanted political justice for the Palestinian people and for the struggle of the Palestinian people to be recognized. They were just asking for the criminals and the murders on any side not to enjoy impunity and to be brought to justice. They just wanted to have a State living in peace side by side with Israel, with East Jerusalem as its capital, with the right of return for refugees. That peace could not happen without the rule of law. The role of the Human Rights Council was not just to promote human rights but to protect them as well.
DOUGLAS M. GRIFFITHS (United States), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that they were disappointed at the outcome of this session. They believed that the Council could be a key forum for human rights. The United States had participated actively in the debate on the Goldstone report. They regretted that the Council had chosen to take precipitated action on the report. It was unfortunate that the Council had agreed to the Special Session without giving to everyone time to study the report in-depth. Regrettably, the resolution before them today was not balanced and went further than the content of the Goldstone report. The United States had voiced their serious concerns over several of the recommendations in the report. They had continued to stress the need of holding all parties to the conflict accountable before law. They had been prepared to support a resolution that would have done so. The United States was still working with the Palestinian Authority and Israel in the peace process. The proposed resolution could only exacerbate polarization. The United States would vote against the resolution, but this would in no way diminish their efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The United States thus called for a vote on the resolution for these reasons.
CARLOS PORTALES (Chile), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the draft resolution before them contained several elements which would have best been considered separately. One of those elements was the report of the Goldstone Fact-Finding Mission, which described very serious acts that had to be investigated to ensure perpetrators were brought to justice. The Council had to send a clear message in that regard. They had to follow-up on the decision taken in resolution S-9/1 and show coherence in their work on this issue. To investigate and try the crimes, they could start with national jurisdictions first, but failing that, they would have to be brought to international ones. Chile was in favour of the draft resolution, which should be considered as part of the search for international peace and justice and the implementation of international law.
ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Slovenia would remain actively engaged in discussions in the Human Rights Council on the follow-up on the report. The European Union had actively engaged in the negotiations with the Palestinian delegation on the draft resolution. Slovenia regretted that several important elements proposed by the European Union had not been taken on board. For this reason, Slovenia could not fully endorse the text. Slovenia further expressed their serious concern about the findings of the report that indicated a systematic disrespect for the principle of proportionality and grave violations of international humanitarian law. Allegations of human rights violations must be thoroughly investigated.
MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO (Brazil), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated Brazil's sincere concern about the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in particular the violation of humanitarian and human rights law during the Gaza conflict this year. The report of the Fact-Finding Mission represented a serious and balanced account of those violations committed by both sides. There was little room for human rights in the context of occupation and aggression. The adoption of the resolution would only be of use if it was done in the context of the peace process. Brazil believed that it was the primary responsibility of the parties themselves to investigate the allegations of human rights violations. The results of those national investigations should then be reported back to the Council. Brazil was ready and determined to work within the Council for a successful outcome of the peace process. Brazil would support the draft resolution before the Council.
LAURA DUPUY LASSERRE (Uruguay), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that they greatly appreciated the report by the Goldstone mission and backed the report as a serious document. As to the observations and recommendations contained in the report, Uruguay felt it was necessary to carry out an in-depth study of the consequences of the recommendations. The proposed resolution did not allow them the needed time to do so.
ALBERTO J. DUMONT (Argentina), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it was important for the Special Sessions of the Council to take place with the central objective of finding a solution to the problems before it. Argentina felt that this session should have been more focused on finding a concrete solution. Nevertheless, Argentina did agree with the conclusions and recommendations in the Goldstone report and the report of the High Commissioner, in particular with regard to combating impunity. However, more time should have been spent on the substantive analysis of the reports, without which they did not feel they had the adequate grounds to take a decision on it.
BEATE STIRO (Norway), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the Goldstone report was serious and should be treated by the Council in a serous manner. The national implementation of the recommendations contained in the report had to comply with relevant international standards. Norway believed that the Council could play a key role in this context and should give a clear follow-up that had a broad support. They were disappointed that they had not been allowed enough time to conduct the necessary consultations and would thus abstain on the vote.
JUAN JOSE IGNACIO GOMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Mexico was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and had reiterated its appeal to the parties, and in particular to Israel, to comply with international human rights law in numerous fora. Despite this, Mexico was not convinced that this was the most appropriate way of dealing with the situation. Mexico appreciated the objectivity of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission headed by Justice Goldstone, and agreed with most of his recommendations. It could be used as a useful tool for further debate in this Council. It also contained recommendations to the parties involved that were valuable. Unfortunately, Mexico could not go along with the draft resolution. The report required long-range action that required greater reflection than had thus far been possible. Far from contributing to an adequate follow-up on the report, action now could hinder results in the medium and long term. There were institutional questions as well raised by the draft resolution.
GOPINATHAN ACHAMKULANGARE (India), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that India had supported the resolution in view of their deep commitment towards Palestine. However, while the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza deserved careful consideration by the Council, they noted that there were procedural and substantive issues with far-reaching implications. India therefore had reservations in making an unqualified endorsement of its recommendations, as well as some of the procedures adopted. It should also be understood that, notwithstanding the numerous references to the International Criminal Court made by the Fact-Finding Mission, their decision to support the resolution was without any prejudice to India’s consistent position on the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court.
BRANISLAV LYSAK (Slovakia), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said Slovakia had been very concerned about the recent clashes in East Jerusalem within the context of the overall peace process. Regarding the report of the United Nations independent Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Slovakia took it seriously. It underlined the need to undertake comprehensive independent investigations into the human rights violations documented therein. However, Slovakia regretted that the resolution adopted by the Special Session had not included the suggestions of the European Union. For that reason Slovakia had not voted for it.
HUGO BRAUWERS (Belgium), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that the fight against impunity was one of the priorities of Belgium and that they attached great importance to the respect of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The principle of accountability required that all grave violations be the subject of in-depth investigations. People committing violations had to be brought to justice. Belgium had appreciated the efforts that had been made to arrive at a more balanced mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission. Both parties should conduct their national investigations in an appropriate manner. The Council should ensure appropriate follow-up.
YURY BOICHENKO. (Russian Federation), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that the Russian Federation had voted for the resolution. At the same time, Russia felt that the questions dealt with in parts A and C of the resolution were ones generally dealt with by the Council and were widely supported. Part B of the report, which dealt with the Goldstone Mission, contained a number of points with which Russia disagreed. It was regrettable that the authors of the resolution had not used compromise text in that section. The results of the Mission contained further study. Many of the recommendations, including those to the security forces under Hamas's controlled, seemed to be well justified. However, a number of provisions in the document went beyond the scope of the Mission, in particular recommendations to the International Criminal Court and the Security Council, as well as calls on States to prosecute war crimes on the basis of universal jurisdiction. Russia was convinced that one of the most rational ways to implement the recommendations of the mission would be for Israel and Palestine to conduct their own independent investigations of human rights violations. If just Part B had been put to the vote, Russia would have abstained on it.
QIAN BO (China), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that, in order to protect the rights of the people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in the broader context of their support for peace in the region, they had voted in favour of the resolution. China had appreciated the work done by the Goldstone Mission. They had however different views on certain of the recommendations. The Council should effectively shoulder its responsibility to protect human rights. China was willing to work with the international community and all parties concerned and would continue to support the peace negotiations.
BOUDEWIJN J. VAN EENENNAAM (Netherlands), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that the Netherlands remained convinced that the concerned parties should undertake their own investigations into allegations of human rights violations. Where relevant, the concerned parties had to bring to justice those concerned. While the situation in East Jerusalem was worrisome, it was not to the extent to merit consideration by the Human Rights Council in a Special Session. If the situation threatened international peace and security, it should be considered in the Security Council. If it threatened cultural sites, it should be considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The debate in this Special Session had not been helpful in the process of reinvigorating the peace process. That should be their goal. For that reason, the Netherlands had voted no.
LAURA MIRACHIAN (Italy), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that they sincerely regretted that they had reached an outcome that was not consensual and that the attempt to rebalance the text by the European Union had failed. Italy had thus not been able to vote in favour of the text.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria), speaking in a general comment, noted that the voting pattern of most of the Western European and other States Group members of the Council concerning the legal outcome of the international independent Fact-Finding Mission, although the latter lined up the aggressor and the victim in terms of condemnation of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, was a poignant reminder that they were still far from transcending politicization and double standards. How could advanced democracies shrink from condemning the targeting of civilians and from stressing accountability for all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as stressed in the Goldstone report?
1Joint statement on behalf of: Union of Arab Jurists ; General Arab Women Federation; Arab Lawyers Union; Arab Organization for Human Rights; International Educational Development; and ITTIJAH: Union of Arab Community Based Organizations.
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